Tobacco Use

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2012

This page is currently under medical review. Please check back for updates.

The use of tobacco is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. Each year, tobacco use is responsible for more than 440,000 deaths, including those caused by secondhand smoke. Smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths, making smoking cessation (quitting smoking) the single most important thing a person can do to lower his or her individual cancer risk.

In addition to cigarettes, other forms of tobacco use include cigar/pipe smoking, waterpipes, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff. None of these alternatives are a safe substitute for smoking because they can cause serious health problems, including cancer.

Tobacco use is associated with increased risk for at least 15 types of cancer, including:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Bladder
  • Cervix
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney
  • Larynx
  • Lip
  • Lung
  • Nasal cavity
  • Nasopharynx
  • Oral cavity
  • Pancreas
  • Paranasal sinus
  • Pharynx
  • Stomach

Even if you have already been diagnosed with cancer, it is never too late to quit. In fact, there are significant health benefits linked to stopping tobacco use after a cancer diagnosis, and your health care team can be a valuable resource for helping you reach this goal.

Below is more information about tobacco use and quitting smoking:

Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke, also known as tobacco smoke pollution or environmental tobacco smoke, is a smoker's exhaled smoke plus the smoke from that person's lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe. It is a known carcinogen (a substance that causes cancer). Each year, about 88 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to other people's smoke, and nearly half of newly diagnosed lung cancers are attributed to secondhand smoke.

Quitting Smoking

Most smokers want to quit. Although it can be difficult, many people are successful, and a variety of treatment options and resources exist to help you reach your goal.

Stopping Tobacco Use After a Cancer Diagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with cancer and continue to smoke or use other tobacco products, you may believe it is too late to quit or there is no benefit to quitting. Some people feel deep down they don’t deserve extra help or care because smoking might have caused their cancer. However, it is never too late to stop using tobacco.